Seated Woman: Thin Neck by Henry Moore. Laing Art Galley, Newcastle.
Seated Woman: Thin Neck by Henry Moore. Laing Art Galley, Newcastle.
Stanhope DU [Stanhopa 1183 BoB, -hop 1228 Ep]. ‘Stony HOH or ridge and HOP or valley.’
Graham and I drove up into the Wear Valley to Stanhope to have a look at the wonderful fossilised tree in the churchyard of St. Thomas’s church.
The 320 million year old fossil was found by quarrymen at a sandstone quarry at Edmundbyers Cross in 1915. It was originally taken to Newcastle and was brought to Stanhope in the 1960s and placed in the churchyard.
This is a superb relic of one of the trees that grew in the Carboniferous forest. It is a species known as Sigillaria, an early ancestor of modern club mosses. Today clubmosses are small mountain plants, only a few centimetres high, but in the tropical swamps of the Carboniferous Period they grew into 30-metre high giants!
Another fossil tree recovered from the sandstone quarry can be seen in the Hancock Great Northern Museum in Newcastle.
While here we thought we’d take a look inside the church. This was a very different building to the previous church we had visited at Escomb. St. Thomas’s is a very well endowed church and reflects the fortunes that have been made from farming and mineral extraction in the district.
The first thing you notice when you enter the church is the Victorian baptismal font. Beautifully carved in Frosterley marble with an extremely ornate cover complete with an over-engineered lifting mechanism.
Frosterley Marble has been used on the chancel floor.
Frosterley marble isn’t a true marble. Marble is a metamorphic rock, i.e. a rock that has been altered from its original state by temperature and pressure. Frosterley marble is merely a highly fossiliferous limestone, that when cut and polished forms a highly decorative stone.
Fossil – Laing Art Gallery Newcastle
This sculpture is a carved block of Frosterley Limestone inset with cast bronze interpretations of the fossils found within it. The fossil installation is displayed on an oak plinth among the Frosterley floor tiles and oak doors and display cabinets in the Marble Hall of the Laing Art Gallery. The sculpture is finished on one side to reflect the smoothness of the floor tiles and the central section shows and explains the unusual shapes seen in the tiles with carved and truncated fossils. The third section is a representation of a carboniferous sea floor with ‘living’ dibunophyllum bipartitum cast in bronze. The Department of Coelenterates at the Natural History Museum in London offered invaluable advice in establishing the most accurate representation of ‘dibunophyllum’.
This ancient stone coffin in the grounds of the church was carved from a single block of Frosterley marble.
The only true marble in the district is to be found in Upper Teesdale. A limestone which was subjected to heat and pressure from contact with the igneous rock that forms the Whin Sill. The resultant rock is known as Sugar Limestone. It is quite crumbly in nature and therefore pretty much useless as a decorative stone.
It was nice to see this Roman altar displayed inside the church. A translation of the inscription is provided, it reads..
To Silvanus, the invincible, sacred
Caius Tetius Venturius Mecia
Prefect of the Sebosian Cavalry
On account of a boar of enormous
size taken which
many of his predecessors
were not able to destroy, erected (this
altar) willigly in discharge of a vow
The town of Stanhope is surrounded by quarries and the valley has a long history of lead mining and smelting. Spoil heaps from the quarries encroach onto the margins of the town but I can find very little evidence in the church of the people who worked in the quarries and mines of Weardale. We left Stanhope and drove up the dale to visit the Rookhope Arch. The arch is all that remains of a two mile long horizontal chimney or flue. The flue carried the toxic gases and fumes from the lead smelt mill to the moortop. Mill workers were periodically sent into the flue to dig out the deposits. The average life span of a lead miner in 1860 was 45 years. Perhaps this ruin is a more fitting memorial to their lives than some mossy obelisk in a churchyard
The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names. 4th Edition. Eilert Ekwall. 1974
North Pennines AONB Geoparks Leaflet
Laing Art Gallery – Topografik
I’ve been exploring this moor for many years.
The Kopstone, gatekeeper of the moor. Looking towards Shap with the Howgills in the distance. The low escarpment on the upper left of the picture is Knipe Scar with its limestone stone circle, part of a chain of at least a dozen intervisible prehistoric monuments in the Lowther valley from Oddendale in the south to the Leacet circle in the north.
There is a loose alignment of monuments running across the moor, walking between this large pair of stones leads you towards the cairn circle known as Moor Divock 4
Stan Beckensall believes that the roughly circular area, below the arrow in the picture, is an eroded cup and ring motif. I have stared at this stone many times and in many lights, the eye of faith is required.
Moving west, this embanked alignment of large upright stones has previously been interpreted as the remains of a circle.
Continuing west, an avenue of small, paired stones leads you across the moor towards the White Raise Cairn
Arriving at White Raise the western landscape opens out, the builders of the mound chose well when they selected this spot. The large white limestone block in the centre of the picture is thought to have served as a cover for the cist.
Onwards across the moor following the route of the Roman Road which deviates towards the circle indicating that this route existed long before the Romans arrived on our shores
When the Bronze Age people erected the monuments on the moor, the Cockpit may have already been regarded as an ancient monument.
The Cockpit was probably the first stone circle I ever visited.
Looking west across the moor from the Cockpit to White Raise and the Pennines beyond. Thinking about the journey home.
The Prehistoric Remains on Moordivock near Ullswater by M. Waistell Taylor. TCWAAS 001. 1886
The Stone Circles of Cumbria by John Waterhouse. Phillimore & Co. 1985
Map extract Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
Another name for the Cleveland Dyke is the Armathwaite-Cleveland Dyke. The dyke outcrops in the Eden Valley at Armathwaite where it forms a weir across the river.
This natural weir was exploited in the past by a watermill on the Armathwaite side of the river and a salmon fishery on the other. The mill site is currently being redeveloped, all thats left of the fishery is a ruined building and a large keep pool.
The dyke was quarried on a small scale locally
Heading south on the A6 I noticed this.
Who could resist visiting a place with such a wonderful name?
I first visited this place in 2004, at that time very little was known about this strange oval earthwork. The site, on the margins of Brackenber Moor, has since been the subject of an Archaeological investigation by the Appleby Archaeological Group and North Pennines Archaeology. They have concluded that the site, and a number of burial mounds located across the moor, are Bronze Age in date.
On the ground there is very little to see. The surrounding moorland is a mix of rough pasture and a golf course. The site occupies a spit of land overlooking the George Ghyll. The ditch and bank are visible and there are a few lumps and bumps within the enclosure. What excites me about this place is the beautiful red sandstone crag and cave located on the edge of the Ghyll.
Dropping down to the Ghyll just beyond a large standing stone
Aeolian (wind-blown) in origin, the Permian Penrith Sandstone Formation formed approximately 272 to 299 million years ago in a desert environment
The main cave could easily house two or three people comfortably. There are many birds nests in the niches in and around the main cave.
The 5th hole looks towards Roman Fell.
The walk leads you through shaded woodland, then onto rough pasture and freshly cut hay meadows, grounding you in the Upper Teesdale landscape before climbing up onto the limestone uplands and into the hush.
We walk beneath the piece discussing its immersive effect. The wind-blown sails flapping over our heads evoking childhood memories of playing beneath bedsheets hung-out to dry on wash days.
The walk from the visitors centre is 3km each way and is probably not suitable for anyone who has difficulties with mobility. The centre is providing transport to and from the site on a weekend. Details about the installation can be found here
Hushing – this term is used for a form of opencast working using water. This involved building a small turf dam at the top of a hill above the area to be worked. When it was full the water was released and rushed down the hillside scouring the soil and any loose rock away. Once the vein was uncovered, crowbars, chisels and hammers were used to loosen the rock and extract ore. In this process, which was repeated over and over again, broken rock accumulated on the floor of the hush and was eventually washed away. Most hushes date from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Source